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Saturday, December 22, 2007

Happy Holidays!And all the best in the new year. Cheers!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Look outside...What? Snow. It's the great white north of New Hampshire...and there's snow. Lots of it. (Remember the McKenzie Brother's rendition of the Twelve Days of Christmas where their true loves brought them lots of lovely stuff...and a beer? You can check out the lyrics here. Have fun!)

This photo's actually from last year; this year's photos are still sitting in the camera. (Oh well!) I just learned that the two companions to this picture will appear in the next issue of the Pitkin Review. I'll post the link as soon as it's ready. You're welcome....

For those of you who have been keeping tabs on my progress through Goddard, it's official: I will graduate on January 6th. Yesterday I faxed my diploma form that lists my really long writer's name, which is how I'd like the official document to read. (Hey, I earned the right to be listed as Dana Biscotti Myskowski; right?)

So what have I been doing in all my "free time" since Packet Five? I edited my screenplay again, of course. And I've been prepping to step in and teach the gen ed course Image & Sound next semester for a professor on sabbatical. I've had to dig back to my undergraduate days and even into high school days as I recall all the material. I know the students and I will have fun with the course, but I'm nervous I won't be able to prep enough in time....

And I'm finishing up this semester with my Media Writing and Intro to Screenwriting students. I have awesome students! Always do. UNH-M has the best, hardest working, most giving, supportive students I've ever met; it is a pleasure and a privilege to work with everyone there. (Hi there, Media Writing students who are visiting my site as part of this week's homework assignment! I really do mean every word I just wrote. Really!)

I'm also working with a director on a short that is coming together great. Fast, too. And I'll be working with another director soon so we can put the finishing touches on a script that I wrote for him a few years ago. I'm also getting ready if the call comes in to write for a TV show that I've been attached to for the past three years; it looks like this may be it: the time that it is picked up by a production company. It's a fabulous storyline with great characters, but I can't tell you more than that. Yet. Sorry.

I'm still working on my short scripts that together comprise my full-length stage play JOINT ACCOUNTS. It's something I began working on at Goddard and knew I'd still be writing and editing long after graduation. One of those shorts, Safety Deposit Boxes, is being performed this weekend at the New Hampshire Technical Institute (information in my blog entry below).

Plus I've started combing through my screenplay pages looking for the perfect ten-minute excerpt to read at graduation weekend. And I've thought about starting to pull together my graduation speech. Goddard: where every grad is the valedictorian. (Cool, huh?)

Alright, back to my work. Blogging is too much fun to even make my to do list.

Thanks for stopping by. Cheers!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes...In case anyone is actually out there and planning on traveling to the campus of NH Technical Institute next weekend for the evening (or afternoon) of short plays, the times on the Friday/Saturday evening performances have changed from a previous post. They are now 7:30 PM. Here's the corrected text:

"An Evening of Short Plays" CONCORD, NH--New Hampshire Technical Institute Drama Club Presents eight short plays by local playwrights. Sweeney Auditorium. Friday/Saturday Dec. 7 & 8, 7:30 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 9, 4 p.m. Admission by donation. Included among the works is "Safety Deposit Boxes" by Dana Biscotti Myskowski.

I hope to attend both the Friday evening and Sunday afternoon performances. Hope to see you there!

Cheers,
Dana

(No animal was harmed in the above picture. No, really....)

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Stairway to locked doors...A nice day today, prompting us to hike the path to the Fire Tower. A good view between the naked trees. Too bad the tower was closed, which led to this silly photo....

Closed. Cut off. Halted.

I'm trying not to focus on the writer's strike, which has cut off my access to my producer. I have edited my creative thesis screenplay, NIKI SWEET TALK MOVES, since sending a former version to her, but the strike has meant that I can't send her the revisions. And I'm only an associate member of the Guild. It's painful...wondering what might be and if my opportunity will dry up should this strike continue too long.

But the Guild is heading back to the table tomorrow for talks. So here's hoping everyone will be willing to work together.

Are you up for an evening of live entertainment? If so, I have a short play being presented among the works at NH Technical Institute (next to the Planetarium) in Concord, NH in two weeks:

"An Evening of Short Plays" CONCORD, NH--New Hampshire Technical Institute Drama Club Presents eight short plays by local playwrights. Sweeney Auditorium. Friday/Saturday Dec. 7 & 8, 7 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 9, 4 p.m. Admission by donation. Included among the works is "Safety Deposit Boxes" by Dana Biscotti Myskowski.

I'm hoping to catch the Friday and Sunday performances; would love to see you there!

Cheers,
Dana

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!It’s on this day more than any other that I miss my father; Thanksgiving was his favorite holiday.

Sure, he liked the football and the food, but what made it special for him was that family gathered simply to be together and to give thanks for all their blessings, even in the slim years. No presents were ever exchanged and any past wrongs were generally forgotten and forgiven. The holiday elicited the best from people simply because of its focus on gratitude.

I have much to be thankful for this year. I recently received word that my fifth packet material will serve as my FINAL packet of my Goddard graduate career. The 40 pages contained 37 pages of a rewrite to my creative thesis NIKI SWEET TALK MOVES and a three-page process letter, thanking my advisor for her astute notes and filling her in on other changes that could not be slipped into the slim packet.

I am ecstatic that I made it. But more than that, I am thankful.

This journey began more than a few years ago when, after receiving my Professional Certificate in Screenwriting from UCLA and having won a few screenplay competitions, the film and documentary professor at UNH-Manchester invited me to teach scriptwriting for the Communication Arts Department. Once inside the classroom I was hooked. I love working with the students of UNH.

“How do I do this full-time?” I asked the then chairperson of the department. No guarantees that it would lead to full-time work, of course, but my first task was to enroll in an MFA program and secure that advanced degree.

It was my mother who helped me next.

After she flew from California to hang out with my children so I could travel to Providence to run the ScriptBiz Screenwriting Seminar of the Rhode Island International Film Festival, my daughter and I took my mother on a thank you trip up north to Hero Island, Vermont to see the summer training grounds of the famous Lipizzaner stallions.

On the drive home on Interstate 89 South I saw a sign for Goddard College. I took the exit and we walked the grounds of the school. No doubt between summer sessions, it was quiet, peaceful, and inspiring. “This is where I want to get my master’s someday,” I told my mom and my daughter.

“Why aren’t you here now?” my mom asked.

Good question. In the next couple weeks I applied, was accepted, and began my incredible journey.

In all honesty I attended primarily to get that piece of paper—my diploma—that would allow me the opportunity to possibly spin a part-time teaching gig into a full-time one. But I received far more than the promise of parchment.

I quickly realized that while UCLA had prepared me well for the world of scriptwriting, I had much more to learn. Yesterday as I met with a director who lives nearby, I told him how amazed I was by the process of my education. I learned how much I didn’t know. And how to recognize and fill-in the gaps in my education as I proceed on my own.

I will always be thankful to Goddard for equipping me to face my journey. The rigorous assignments of the countless critical papers have helped me to study films, plays, scripts, poetry, novels, and stories in a more in-depth way than I had ever before known. And that has helped me—and will continue to help me—as I approach my own writing and rewriting.

Goddard has taught me to fish.

So, thank you. Goddard. Mom. Husband. Kids. Fellow classmates. Students. Friends. Family. Colleagues. Writer’s Group. Neighbors. Internet. Post Office Employees. And more.

And Dad. For not only helping me to appreciate this holiday above all others, but for instilling in me a sense of excellence and hard work that I hope to never outgrow.

Photos above taken by my husband on our Summer, 2007 vacation to Cliff Island, Maine. Top photo: lobster boats at dawn. Center photo: he took for me since “107” has become the number that signifies my father; it was his caddie number when he was a kid in Cleveland; it is also the title of a short screenplay I wrote that tells one of his incredible brush with the mob stories. Bottom photo: taken on the ferry as we left Cliff Island. Sad when you consider how many months it will be before we return. Happy when we realize how many memories we made there and for which we can be thankful.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Just a quick note...I've gone underground again after having received my Packet Four notes on my Creative Thesis screenplay from my Advisor yesterday (am still awaiting notes from my Second Reader). Many astute revision suggestions have me scrambling to complete a rewrite of NIKI SWEET TALK MOVES by Packet Five, which is due next week. It should be the final packet of my Goddard career.

So if you'll excuse me for a couple more weeks, I shall remain as underground (in my basement office) as possible, popping up only to retrieve my daughter from school and to teach at UNH. Perhaps to glimpse my shadow now and then, too.

Cheers,
Dana

Photo above taken at the tree farm where we harvest our Christmas tree each year. It's tagged there somewhere in the photo....

Saturday, October 27, 2007

NIKI SWEET TALK MOVES again…She’s off. My 119-page Creative Thesis Screenplay. To my Graduate Advisor and to my Second Reader. Also to a production company by request.

An enormous THANK YOU to all my volunteer readers!!! You know I couldn't have done it without your help. Also to my family and friends for putting up with me these past few weeks.... Thanks, too, to all of you who sent e-mails congratulating me yesterday for reaching the finish line, and to those of you who sent me notes such as *inhale, exhale, repeat from *. Who knows where I'd be now without such wise advice!

And the wait begins.

I’ve been spending every spare moment writing and rewriting. So now what will I do with all of my free time?

Grade papers. Update my bibliography. Maybe add two more texts to my Annotated Bibliography. Search for a third adjunct class to teach at some nearby college next spring. (UNH only allows adjuncts to teach up to two classes per semester; I had no idea…all this time I thought I was just being lazy only teaching two classes while in grad school.)

And clean. If you’ve been to my house recently you’re probably thinking there’s no way she can possibly accomplish that goal. If you live with me, you’re wondering which furniture is going to be moved first.

And, naturally, I have more writing to do. I am still at work on JOINT ACCOUNTS, my collection of one-act plays and monologues that can each stand alone or be performed together by a cast of four on a bare stage. I’ve been writing it as an extra creative graduate project, obtaining feedback when I can.

In fact, my latest piece to be reviewed by my advisor—SAFETY DEPOSIT BOXES—will be performed in December at the New Hampshire Technical Institute in Concord, NH. More info, soon….

Speaking of which, NIKI SWEET TALK MOVES will also enjoy a staged reading at the University of New Hampshire’s Manchester campus in the Spring 2008 semester. More info posted as it becomes available.

And I have an adaptation of Merle Drown’s PLOWING UP A SNAKE that is awaiting a rewrite. I have the ideas and have been just waiting for the extra couple weeks to dive into that project and get it back out to the few interested production companies.

As for my Goddard Career, I have only one more packet to go. That’s presuming both my advisor and my second reader think my Creative Thesis is ready.

And what is this draft of my screenplay about, you might wonder?

NIKI SWEET TALK MOVES tells the story of Wyn Baker, a selfish 30-something photojournalist who needs promise of a financial award in order to help her people, the Inuit of Nunavut, Canada. In her extraordinary travels Wyn learns how to live and love as she races against time and the elements to expose a greedy and deadly oil exec bent on grabbing as much land as possible as the company expands in pace with the rapidly retreating ice.

The unique title plays off the rough phonetic pronunciation of Nikisuittuq [niki-sweet-TOK], which is Inuktitut for never moves and the North Star. It is also the ultimate Inuksuk, which is a fun tie-in for me since Inuksuit (plural for Inuksuk) play such an integral part in my chilly—but not quite chilly enough—northern tale.

As always: thanks for stopping by. Oh, and: go Sox!!!

Cheers,
Dana

PHOTOS ABOVE: An Inuksuk built and photographed by my husband while we vacationed at Cliff Island, Maine this summer; a leaf imprint on my dirty front porch (I'm actually guilty of recording the photographic evidence...); and my hubby captured a pic of my license plate, which was my birthday present to myself two years ago.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Spinning in control....I took an afternoon off today from writing to enjoy the gorgeous fall day here in sunny and warm New Hampshire to walk, tag a Christmas Tree, and take a few photos.

The one above is of my mother's day present: one of those cool copper spinners that turn in the slightest breeze. In the center are bright glass beads. It reminds me of that film MULHOLLAND DRIVE. Or of the marble game at the end of MEN IN BLACK. (I only need the slightest provocation to remind me of any movie.) Against the backdrop of our maple trees, it's absolutely beautiful as it spins in the sunshine.

I just watched SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION with my daughter. She loved it. And why wouldn't she? It's one of the best films ever made. My second-favorite screenplay ever written. Frank Darabont is a genius. (My first favorite screenplay, though one of my least favorite films, is LIGHT SLEEPER. Paul Schrader sure can write them....)

I might be reaching and branching out here for the verbal tie-in to the fabulous fall photo, but I must admit I watched SHAWSHANK with a bit of dread, worried my daughter wouldn't get just how fabulous a film it is. But she did. We both agreed that growing up in my house, it'd be difficult NOT to appreciate a gem of a film like that.

Okay. Enough waxing unpoetic for now. Back to editing my Creative Thesis screenplay, which is due THIS FRIDAY!!! And to rewriting my Process Letter explaining the long road that it took to get my story where it is today. More later.

Thanks, as always, for stopping in. Be well. Be happy. And smile. I hear it's contagious. We need that sort of thing spreading in our everyday world....

Cheers,
Dana

(While I may have taken the top photo, the next two photos were shot by my husband; they are of trees in our front yard.)

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Regrouping...This week I sent off my final Hump Packet of my Goddard career (hopefully...as long as my Creative Thesis is accepted by my faculty advisor and by my second reader).

Inside Packet #3:
Two annotations—my final ones—numbers 44 & 45
My 19-page Process Paper
A customary Process Letter
And 12 pages of my Creative Thesis revision

Now I am writing and rewriting as I polish and hone my graduate screenplay. It’s still Wyn’s story, albeit more finely tuned, with a tightly-wound ticking clock, a polar bear out of water element, and a greedy oil company bent on land grabbing whatever they want—taking both land and precious water ways from the Inuit of Nunavut, Canada.

It’s meant to echo what’s happening in the Circumpolar Regions currently, while highlighting what one person could possibly do, if she rises to the challenge (she does!).

Global warming has opened waterways and eroded precious shoreline, leaving the Inuit and native species to adapt or perish. But a prophecy tells of one who will save her people. And while stubbornness may be her strength, it also may get in her way….

NIKI SWEET TALK MOVES. Coming soon.

Okay. I’m off to bed for now. So I can rise early and return to Wyn’s story.

As always, thanks for stopping by.

Cheers,
Dana

(Photo above of lobster boats at rest in a Cliff Island cove, Casco Bay, Maine; taken by Jan Myskowski.)

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Reflections on a Screenwriting LifeNote: This essay was first published in the “Alpha Chi Recorder, Alumni Issue,” Vol. 49, No. 3, 2006

As I sit in my back yard next to the glamorous $300 blow-up pool that took us five weeks to get level, I reflect on my life as a screenwriter. Not because I necessarily have a life as a screenwriter, but because I was asked to reflect on my life as one for this article. When asked what I do, I often laugh as I say, “A New Hampshire-based screenwriter; absurd isn’t it?” I’m also a full-time mom of two teens, but rarely do people want to hear tales from that harrowing occupation. And while I have written more than a dozen feature scripts and at least double that in short screenplays, I have yet to support me and mine with my profession that I so aspire to and absolutely adore.

There are more than 55,000 scripts and projects registered with the Writers Guild of America annually. Approximately 250 or so films are produced and distributed by the major studios each year, probably about triple that or so by independents, and there are the direct to cable films that number somewhere within that bubble. You do the math. My particular line of work isn’t looking so lucrative or glamorous now, is it?

Yet I keep at it. A moth to the flame, a giant slug to the salt bowl, a mosquito to one of those new-fangled gas tank contraptions. I’m a writer. A dramatic one. This is who I am. And I love what I do.

I’ve gotten a few bites. Even reeled in a couple all the way. After earning my certificate of completion in the Professional Programs in Screenwriting online at UCLA’s MFA program, I managed to place in a few contests, and the next year won three of them. That’s how we out-in-the-middle-of-nowhere screenwriters become known: win, place, or show in one of the accepted script competitions. After winning its Children/Family script category, the Breckenridge Festival of Film put me up (and I mean way up—I suffered from altitude sickness the entire time) for the duration of the four-day festival. A win at a local film competition resulted in the production of my first narrative fiction short film that later screened at the New Hampshire Film Expo. Placing in the winner’s circle at the Rhode Island International Film Festival (RIIFF) launched my career.

In RIIFF I found a prize more valuable than any other: exposure to producers, agents, and managers. I won a free listing on the popular scriptwriters’ networking website InkTip dot com where I received a flurry of invitations to submit my script. I flew out to California to visit my family and received my first requests to meet with studio execs and with a manager. Being the professional that I am, I brought along my mother and my daughter for emotional support. After all, someone had to witness the security guard welcoming me by name after he consulted a short list of invitees to Ren-Mar Studios where the “I Love Lucy” show was once taped. We were there to tour the set of “Monk” with a producer for the show, a fellow who had become a friend after he read another of my scripts and agreed to help me with the revisions as we sought avenues attempting to get it produced. (It’s still traveling down some of those avenues….)

Our first studio visit was to a small special effects, props, and costume company that had an impressive array of items they had created for various films and television shows. We saw Buffy’s amulet that she wore in her last episode, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Mr. Freeze suit from one of the “Batman” movies, and weapons from those epic movies that need them. More impressive was Wharf’s stand-in from “Star Trek,” one of the company’s co-founders. Most impressive was when the studio exec entered the conference room, slammed my script on the table, and said, “I love it! I want it!”

Within two days I had a contract, a week later I had an agent, and months later I had…good memories of a fun ride. Unfortunately this business takes money, lots of it. When the money men pulled out, disappointment descended upon the five writers the small special effects company had signed. I imagine an even greater disappointment fell on the company’s co-founders who were thrilled with their new and fleeting status as a production studio.

That script, “The Princess and the Pirate,” later made its way to an up and coming animation studio, Hatchling Studios, where it presently sits in queue, awaiting time and, you guessed it: money. The CEO of the studio so liked my writing that he asked me to write treatments for several possible animated television series, and he has the rights to another of my feature specs, “Mirror Prophecy,” which happens to be my daughter’s all time favorite of my collection. It’s the story of twin teen girls separated at birth who must reunite in order to save their planet, and ultimately the galaxy. The best part is that the two use their brains to outwit their enemy.

I do manage to squeeze out some income from this profession that taunts me daily. I teach all things screenwriting at the University of New Hampshire, lead scriptwriting and pitching workshops for film festivals, critique client screenplays, write corporate scripts, and—my trophy project to date—I wrote a planetarium show that screens at the Christa McAuliffe Planetarium in Concord, New Hampshire.

“Breathing Space” is a show Al Gore would approve of, I think. Targeted to the junior high crowd, the show tackles the global warming issue head-on. My research meant I interviewed meteorologists, geologists, glaciologists, earth-scientists, astrophysicists, and a skateboarder. While the scientists provided the information and data I needed to create my script, my son provided the jargon the story needed to connect with its audience.

Connecting with his audience is something Hollywood tough-guy actor Danny Trejo does well. He was kind enough to help out in a staged reading of three winning short screenplays. It was part of the two-day long ScriptBiz Screenwriting Seminar, for which I served as director at the time and now continue on in a consultant role. (The seminar is just one of many spin-off programs of the annual Rhode Island International Film Festival.)

Following the reading an impromptu question and answer period ensued. The unscheduled event lasted more than an hour, which was at least a half hour beyond what Danny could really spare before he was expected at his next venue. But he was enjoying himself with the small enthusiastic crowd, a group of fellow filmmakers who knew his career well and wanted to hear more. The candor in which he responded to the numerous inquiries was warm and refreshing, breaking any preconceived notions of “Hollywood types.”

Following his staged reading and Q&A session, I drove Danny and his manager, Director Joe Eckhardt, back to their hotel. Unfortunately, I neglected to tell them that while I served as director of this particular arm of the film festival, it was only my second trip to the confusing city of Providence. I think they knew they were in trouble when I couldn’t find the exit to the parking garage. “Uhh, I think you’re in the wrong place,” Danny pointed to the commuter exit that I had inadvertently entered. Five minutes and many car horns later, I finally managed to shimmy out of queue and cheerily announced, “they don’t have parking garages in New Hampshire, unless you count the one at the airport.” Danny and Joe did not look at all surprised.

Afterward as I let my excellent sense of direction guide me down a road I’d never seen before (or since), Danny asked if I would be attending the premiere of his and Joe’s documentary “Champion,” which was screening the next night. I became very quiet, trying to find the words. Ultimately I decided the truth was best. “I wanted to,” I began, “but my fourteen year old son is having some trouble. He really needs me home right now.”

For the first time on that crazy ride Danny turned and looked me in the eye. “That’s awesome,” he said. He meant it, too. Danny is the kind of person who cares more about people than he does about the business. He devotes himself to helping young men who are having trouble finding their way.

Later that evening, after all the screenings and the parties, as my friends and I headed for our cars, we heard my name yelled from among the outdoor cafĂ© tables. Joe Eckhardt came running. “Wait here a moment,” he asked more than asserted. A few minutes later he returned with a DVD copy of “Champion,” the documentary of Danny’s extraordinary path that led him from prison to helping parolees and young people who find themselves in trouble with the law. Helping one young man avoid the temptation of drugs and alcohol on the job is what led to Danny’s acting career; the job was on a movie set where Danny ultimately was discovered, going on to appear in films like “Con-Air” and “Desperado” to menace stars Nicholas Cage and Antonio Banderas.

“Danny wanted you to have a copy to share with your son,” Joe said as he handed me a copy of the DVD. Six months later I learned “Champion” was still among my son’s top three favorite DVDs, along with “Ocean’s Eleven” and “Rat Race.” Now that’s connecting with your audience.

I teach “write what you know” and begin all my writing seminars and classes with a storytelling exercise that calls on each participant to dig deep within themselves to find a story worthy of sharing with the group. Usually it’s something funny, often it’s about the storyteller, and it is always personal. It’s an exercise designed to open people up to the treasure trove of material within themselves.

When asked a few years ago to write a short script that would showcase the directing talents of my now good friend Mark Constance, a member of the director’s guild and a fellow New Hampshire resident, I dug deep within my store of unwritten family tales. Mark wanted something that would not only show his capabilities as a director and mine as a writer, but he had a specific project in mind at the time: an adaptation of a novel that flirted with the mob.

So one weekend I sat down and contemplated all the brushes with the mob stories my dad had regaled us with over the years. Growing up in inner city Cleveland my father became street wise at a young age and did not hesitate to stand up for himself and his friends against the sons of the mob boss and his cohorts. Though his stories are both amusing and frightening, none stood on their own as a short script.

That’s when I introduced the classic Hollywood “What if?” What if my father had taken that offer upon graduation from Case Western Reserve and joined the mob to run a front for them? What would drive a man of high moral fabric to such a decision when the choice meant he had to make a hit in order to join the family? What would the agony of that choice do to the man? Would he ultimately pull the trigger?

The result was “The Provider,” an 18-page short script that Mark and I have rewritten and tweaked, and which we plan to one day film. The project also opened my mind to my father’s other brush with the mob stories and after several years I have at last penned all three in my trilogy that I hope will one day be committed to film and distributed together.

It also opened me up to the cathartic exercise of writing. Where as before I had often penned entertaining scripts for a younger audience, or danced around the enormous issues in my own life in stories masked in sci-fi or other far-flung worlds, I began writing from my soul. In doing so, I finally began connecting with my first desired audience: producers and directors who can ultimately bring my words to viewers.

A few years ago I lost my father at the too early age of 61 to cancer, and two years later I lost a good college girlfriend who was not yet 40 to the monstrous disease. Others were losing loved ones to it, as well, or fighting it, and soon I learned I had a runaway growth in my uterus. While mine turned out benign, it resulted in a total hysterectomy that almost cost me my life in the recovery room.

Talk about a well of stories from which to draw.

I soon penned the story about a man’s emotional ride through the guilt of battling his wife and so much hurt that almost led to divorce…until they both learned of her diagnoses that quickly led to her funeral. The story takes place at a cemetery over the course of a day about a year after his wife’s death. In fifteen pages he manages to navigate the layers of his guilt so he can live his own life again. “The Cartographer” resonated with several producers and directors and has finally landed with Filmmaker Ken Dietiker in Washington State, where it sits in a quasi preproduction awaiting the right timing. That connection has also led to my writing and voicing over corporate films for him, most recently for his General Dynamics customer.

My latest cathartic exercise, “Tin Cat,” has also resonated with three directors and may end up as my next produced short film. In it I hit my professional stride. I entered the short script into a competition, something I rarely do anymore since the competitions have earned me what I originally sought: an agent and a method by which to open many of the doors I needed and still require. During a blind judging a friend e-mailed around midnight. “This must be your script!” he wrote, excited by the story, convinced that it was mine. It was gratifying to learn that he recognized my writing style, for in his discovery I realized that I had found my own unique voice.

I am now working on further developing my voice as a graduate student enrolled in the MFA in Creative Writing low-residency program at Goddard College. My latest attempt is to take some of the most difficult pains in my past and develop them into a thriller. I took the “What if” approach to my own life, and infused psychological thriller nuances as I endeavor to weave my story.

Meanwhile, I sit poised as one of two writers attached to a new television dramatic series that has been picked up three times, the latest in early July. It’s attracted huge bites and looks as promising as any of my projects, maybe more so for the group effort that’s involved and for the high caliber of people attached to the project. I’ve been along for the ride for two years and am looking forward to the possibility of writing for the show, especially since my newly developed unique voice so neatly feathers in with the voice of the show’s creator.

As I daydream about the fat paychecks that will come with a project of that magnitude, I continue to approach my profession with realistic expectations. I am placing the final touches on my non-fiction book proposal, which has already been requested by an editor at a west coast publishing house. The book focuses on the art of penning the short screenplay, a unique art form that can help aspiring writers, directors, and producers launch their careers in this intriguing and enigmatic business.

I think of short scripts and the resulting films as the poetry of the cinematic world, which appears in my title: “Poetry in Motion Pictures.” Their themes are often simple, yet powerful, and because of the brevity, it seems many filmmakers are willing to experiment with the genre. They are also less expensive to produce since their brief length often limits the locations and number of actors. Short films are frequently utilized as a “calling card” for the industry. It’s an opportunity for a director to showcase his talent, for a writer to gain production credits, and for everyone else involved to take that first bold step into filmmaking or into a filmmaking role they’ve never before experienced.

Two years ago at the Rhode Island International Film Festival, after a day of leading screenwriting seminars, my college roommate and I made our way up the Providence City Hall steps to the third floor where an after hours party raged on. At the top of the stairs waiting for the elevator was an actor turned filmmaker I recognized instantly. “Shoot!” I thought. “Now I actually have to do as I preach: I have to pitch to him.”

Andrew McCarthy (ho of 1980s Brat Pack fame) and I chatted for a few minutes about his short film debut as a director and what he might like to direct next. At the end of what became an enjoyable few minutes he asked me to send him one of my feature length spec scripts. It didn’t matter that he didn’t have a business card to share with me, for a couple days later his manager and I were in e-mail contact. Andrew had asked him to read one of my scripts. He and his manager also sent me a copy of his short film “News for the Church” and the script that led to it for use in my class. While we haven’t yet worked together on a project, we’ve stayed in touch since. In this business you never know when the stars will converge and everything will fall into place for a project to come to fruition.

At another workshop I led last fall in Portsmouth, N.H., for the New Hampshire Film Expo, one participant stated that he attended my workshop just to meet me. I recognized the actor from his guest appearance on an episode of “The West Wing,” so I was even more flattered than I might normally have been. He was called out early, but left his business card behind and asked me to phone him.

The weekend festivities long behind us, I pulled out his business card and regarded it carefully. The gold statuette of the Emmy stood boldly, prominently. I realized he was the then governor of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. I was nervous, but none the less did as I was asked: I rang Conrad Bachmann up in his L.A. home. Turns out he leads a similar workshop for members of the Academy and would like me to consider helping out next time I’m in L.A. And he so liked one of my scripts, that he agreed to play the role of the murderous bartender, should the project ever be greenlit.

While the business may not be putting much in the way of fancy food on my family’s table, it does provide rich after dinner discussions and opens my children’s minds to the endless possibilities of stories that lie within them. So, on that pseudo-philosophical note, I think I will jump into my blow-up pool and consider what story I might next commit to paper, with or without the wildcard “What if” thrown into the mix.

Monday, October 01, 2007

How do you cook a flying fish?In an airplane perhaps?

It probably also helps to have the right utensils.

So my blog's been active for two years, and I thought I’d just this once post a note about a fundraiser to support the High School Volleyball Team where my daughter plays.

IF and only IF you’ve been thinking to yourself lately: “Gee, I wonder where I can get a Pampered Chef ____________[fill in the blank]” then feel free to contact me and I’ll send you the handy-dandy link so you can order your all new thingy-ma-bopper. Only till October 6th, though; it’s a QUICK fundraising campaign.

Happy cooking and volleyballing!

Friday, September 28, 2007

News from Underground…Image above of my son’s sidewalk chalk-work during “Art in the Park” last Saturday at Manchester’s Victory Park, sponsored by the New Hampshire Institute of Art where he is a freshman. Photo by his father. It was a great day & a spectacular event complete with a Celtic-sounding quartet that I could have listened to all day.

It’s my G-4 semester and I am feeling all the pressures that Goddard G-4s before me warned of, even as prepared as I was to leap into my final semester. Which is why I am mostly underground these days, both literally—as I work from my basement office—and figuratively.

I do pop up on occasion: to cheer on my daughter’s high school volleyball team, to teach classes at UNH, and to walk weekends with the dog and hubby.

Otherwise, I’m writing.

Today I finished my final Goddard annotation. Number 45. On the Use of Movement to Help Ease the Reader’s Journey Through the Novel "Night" by Elie Wiesel (as translated by Marion Wiesel). It was a potent, poignant tale that The New York Times calls, “A slim volume of terrifying power” (quoted on the cover).

I don’t usually have the courage or discipline to read stories about the holocaust, but this was so magically written that I couldn’t put it down. Twice. And I look forward to re-reading it yet again, at a time when I can do so leisurely. Once my G-4 semester is behind me, most likely. I highly recommend the slender volume. You will be changed after having read it. For the better.

So, Packet # 2 went off without a hitch. Exactly as I outlined in an earlier post: three annotations; my complete (yet still evolving) bibliography that includes everything I’ve read and studied in the past two years; an annotated bibliography of the top eighteen texts that most directly informed my creative thesis; course equivalents and course descriptions, which detail what I have studied during each semester, and one of my ten minute plays. A process letter accompanied it all, as always.

I am pleased to report that besides one minor tweak, all my graduate work was accepted by my advisor.

Leaving Packet # 3, the contents of which I have mostly completed today. I have revised my now 19-page Process Paper three times and am pleased with its contents. I have written my final two annotations (# 44 examines the use of the red herring in the novel "About a Boy" by Nick Hornby). I will pen my process letter next week, which is when I actually have to mail my packet in. And I hope to include some pages from my newly revised Creative Thesis screenplay, which is what has driven me underground of late.

So, without further adieu, I shall return to my script NIKI SWEET TALK MOVES in an attempt to move this next draft forward. I’ll surface again at the end of the month. Hopefully before the snow flies in our region of the country.

Thanks for stopping by!

Cheers,
Dana

Monday, September 03, 2007

A boatload of thoughts...
It's Moving Day.

So much has gone into this day: a year of home schooling in preparation for the GED, increased art classes, blood, sweat, tears, and a bunch of prayers. And here we are. Moving our sixteen-year-old son into his dorm at art school.

By all practical rules don’t I get him for two more years?

I’m paraphrasing Elaine from Cameron Crowe’s ALMOST FAMOUS when she becomes both sentimental and vulnerable as she speaks with her fifteen-year-old son William who’s in Topeka with the band he’s covering for Rolling Stone. It’s such a touching moment that I can’t stop myself from misquoting it to my son.

That and Elaine’s oft said, “Don’t take drugs!” Which, while I’m sure she meant that literally, I also took to mean, “Don’t be ordinary.” If I could have one wish for my son, and for my daughter, it would be that they may live a life that is anything but ordinary. Hopefully that will lead to happiness, as well.

Okay. I have a few more hours with him. Think I’ll go savor them now. Thanks for stopping by.

(Photo above by my husband, taken as our ferry docked in Portland, Maine.)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Happy Anniversary!Twenty years ago today we each said, "I do," to the other. I guess we both really meant it. Pretty cool, huh?

Well, I just thought I'd share. Enjoy your day. And thanks, as always, for stopping by. Cheers!

(Photo above by--you guessed it!--my hubby.)

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

NIKI SWEET TALK MOVES…She’s on the move. My Creative Thesis Manuscript: a 120-page screenplay entitled NIKI SWEET TALK MOVES. I sent it off yesterday to my Goddard College faculty advisor and to my second faculty reader.

The tale follows environmental anthropologist and photojournalist Wyn Baker on her adventures to find her true family in Nunavut, Canada, while running from her past—the family who would rather see her dead. Set in an environment of advanced global climate change, Wyn discovers her family’s greedy oil company is behind an accelerated glacial melt process that has devastated several coastal Inuit communities.

Will Wyn survive long enough to do something about it? Of course. For her tale is about love, respect, family, patience, and persistence. And that just NEEDS to win over evil sometimes. At least in the fictional world. Especially my fictional world.

The title uses the rough phonetic pronunciation of Nikisuittuq, playing on the dual meanings of the Inuktitut word. Nikisuittuq means “never moves.” So the pun in the title is “never moves, moves.” It’s used by the Inuit woman who nurses Wyn back to health after a nasty roll in the icy Baffin Bay waters with an emaciated, starving polar bear.

The word also refers to the polestar or the North Star. Nikisuittuq is the ultimate Inuksuk leading a traveler home.

An Inuksuk is a stacked stone structure built by the Inuit to communicate to future travelers. They can warn of a dangerous location, mark the site of a caribou stash, note a good kayak put-in spot, help herd caribou in a hunt, and—my favorite use—lead a traveler home across the barren terrain.*

Wyn both literally and figuratively uses a series of Inuksuit (plural form) on her voyage, similar to the qallunaat-built structure in the photo above. The white man who built it is my husband. I drew him a design of one I pictured while we were ostensibly on vacation, a trip to Cliff Island, Maine in Casco Bay in which I worked on writing my screenplay daily. He went to the beach at the end of the cottage path and built this mini-Inuksuk; it stood almost two-feet high. He took pictures of it, knowing it might be a while before I could get to the beach to see it since I was writing. (He was right!)

So this post marks the beginning of my Goddard G-4 semester. Ahead lies a rewrite of the screenplay, a twenty-page Process Paper, three of five final annotations (I finished the fourth at 1:28 this morning), compiling my bibliography, reading numerous books, and writing an annotated bibliography. I’ve already compiled my course equivalents, though I’m certain to give those a tweak before mailing them off to my advisor.

Today it is back to work on planning my Media Writing course, a new class at the University of New Hampshire that I am teaching following the Labor Day weekend. As has become customary with me, I could not find one satisfactory text, so in planning the class I am having to virtually write my own text book. One of these days I’ll get it off to a publisher along with the text from my Introductory Screenwriting class. First, though, I think I’ll attempt to graduate.

For those of you looking for good writing companion texts, you might consider the two that I am requiring of my Media Writing students: William Zinsser’s On Writing Well and the indomitable Strunk & White Elements of Style.

May you find your way in your life’s travels. Thanks for dropping by.

Cheers,
Dana

*An Inuksuk can do much more than what I listed. One helpful reference is Mary Wallace’s The Inuksuk Book, a Wow Canada! Book published by Maple Tree Press, Toronto, 1999.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Another claws to celebrate...My son received an ADDITIONAL partial four-year scholarship to the NH Institute of Art, this one based upon his academic scores on the GED! (His other partial four-year scholarship was awarded based upon the quality of his art portfolio.) He begins his freshman year after Labor Day.

Okay. Back to your regularly scheduled internet surfing. While I return to editing my Creative Thesis, which I will send off to my academic advisor and second reader this week. (More on that AFTER I've mailed it.)

Thanks for dropping by!

Cheers,
dana
(a.k.a. Proud Mom)

Photo above taken by me hubby during our recent jaunt to Cliff Island, Maine, located in Casco Bay, a short ferry ride from the city of Portland.

Friday, July 27, 2007

We all scream for island....And so today concludes our two-week stay on the tiny and seemingly remote Cliff Island located in Casco Bay, Maine (off of Portland via the convenient Casco Bay Lines ferry service).

In two weeks we managed to tan, swim, walk, toast marshmallows, read, relax, visit Portland twice, and eat tons of lobster and striper (the sea bass was caught by a friend of ours visiting the first weekend and later in the week by our son off the ledges adjacent to the cottage's rocky beach).

I also reached FADE OUT yet again. This time with version number six of my Inuit tale. For the first time in a long time I was able to retain probably about fifteen scenes with few edits. Those who know me realize that I am a toss and begin from scratch writer, so that's a huge accomplishment and tells me I am actually nearing the end of my Creative Thesis project. Woo hoo: perhaps I may actually be able to graduate after this, my G-4 semester at Goddard.

Hope you're enjoying summer! Thanks for dropping by.

(Above photos from the Cliff Island website. The top features the oddly shaped Cliff Island; the second photo features the Murphy Cottage, which is where we stayed these past two weeks. Thanks to the Murphy Family for making their cottage available for rental.)

Friday, July 13, 2007

Sun sets on Cliff Island…

…and on the technological wizardry of an anxious traveler.

Earlier this evening I attempted to set-up one of those automated e-mail messages that cheerily tells the e-mailer right away that I am at Cliff Island in Casco Bay, Maine (off of Portland) where wifi is sporadic and about a half mile’s walk away…so not to expect a reply from me for a couple of days or so.

Somehow I managed to send the message out at once to EVERY message sitting in my in-box. All 1070 of them.

If you’re one of the unfortunate many who received several e-mails from me on Friday the 13th, I humbly apologize. Really, I am truly sorry.

Feel free to post an angry message here for me and for everyone to read. Post it several times even. I’ll understand. Completely.

Have a good day?

Cheers,
dana

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Home stretch...For those of you still keeping track of my grad school process—and I am genuinely surprised and pleased by how many of you there are—I thought I’d quickly outline what’s to come for me during this, my FINAL semester at Goddard College.

Lifting directly from my semester’s Study Plan (all such text is italicized), here’s where I am sitting as I head into the last laps:

I am in my G-4 Semester. I have completed 40 Annotations, my two short critical papers, my twenty-page critical paper, my teaching practicum and teaching paper, and I have written two feature length screenplays with the help and guidance of my advisors.

And my specific goals for the semester are:

To complete the final semester degree requirements including:
- the final twenty-page process paper
- the course equivalents
- the annotated bibliography
- the complete bibliography
- my final five annotations
- my publishable graduating draft of my Creative Thesis

I will work with my advisor and my second reader as I revise and hone my Creative Thesis, my latest screenplay which is currently in its fifth draft form.

In addition, I am writing a series of related ten-minute plays that I hope to be able to share (at least in part) with my advisor during the packet process.


THE NITTY GRITTY:
Here’s my calendar for the semester:
Packet #1, due Aug. 27, though I am aiming for Aug. 6th:
(Sent to BOTH my advisor and second reader)
- Process Letter
- Creative Thesis, revised (Draft #6)

Packet #2, due Sept. 17:
(Sent to my Advisor)
- Process Letter
- Three Annotations
- Annotated Bibliography
- Course Equivalents & Course Descriptions, First Draft
- Overall/General Bibliography
- Creative Work, my secondary Play Project
- Copies of all my self & faculty evaluations

Packet #3, due Oct. 8:
(Sent to my Advisor)
- Process Letter
- Two Annotations
- Process Paper, First Draft
- Creative Thesis: scenes I may need read before the next draft
- Creative Work, my secondary Play Project

Packet #4, due Oct. 29:
(Sent to my Advisor and my Second Reader)
- Process Letter
- Creative Thesis, (Draft # 7, “Final Draft”)

Packet #5, due Nov. 19:
(Sent to my Advisor)
- Process Letter
- Rewritten Process Paper, if necessary
- Rewritten Course Equivalents, if necessary
- Rewritten Annotated Bibliography, if necessary
- Creative Thesis: rewritten scenes, as necessary
- Creative Thesis Reading: possibly a first draft of my ten-minute graduate reading
- Creative Work, possibly some pages from my secondary Play Project



And how will all the work of my final semester address the degree requirements for Goddard’s MFA degree program?

I will complete my graduation binder requirements including a publishable draft of my Creative Thesis. I will also complete the literature component of my degree requirements by writing my final five annotations.

The final note on the Study Plan is our Bibliography. It’s long, so I’ll spare you that.

And that’s it. Accomplish all this and I will receive my graduate degree on January 6, 2008. It’s been an incredible journey! Thanks for tagging along.

(Top photo taken of a New Hampshire farm by my husband; the pines and chairs are from the Goddard College website--a beautiful place to study.)

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Son's set...
So my latest published work may not have the sort of panache that comes with length. But as a scriptwriter, and a former radio news and ad writer, at least I can write short...occasionally. It also happens to pay better than most of my previous gigs.

You can read about our last summer's drive to “Boring Nowhere” (as our son thinks of it) here: Laugh Lines on the Reader's Digest website. Scroll down to "Life in These United States."Enjoy!

(Photo above taken at Cliff Island, Maine by my husband last summer.)

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Field Notes...Am just back from a crazy, hectic, exhilarating week of residency at Goddard College and am diving into the numerous tasks here at home…including printing off an “A” boarding pass for my husband as he prepares to visit his stepfather tomorrow.

It will be a trip that reconnects the two of them. As I help him pack, I remember to slip a copy of STORIES OF STRENGTH inside his briefcase so he may share with his stepfather the poem he wrote in tribute to him. (The collection was edited by Jenna Glatzer in 2005 and dedicated to the Survivors of Hurricane Katrina.)

Hope you enjoy the poem. And that you may connect with your friends and loved ones soon.

THE WELD MAKER
written by Jan P. Myskowski

After each of those endless days riding
Bulldozers or loaders across the plains
Of construction sites, every one the same,
Pushing and pulling levers, pushing dirt
Into piles, lifting it onto the backs
Of trucks, before the days of heated cabs,

His relief was to crack a beer in the
Garage, throw the switch on the arc welder
And make a hitch or trailer frame for some
Friend he’d made himself indebted to just
For the excuse to lay those luminous
Beads, and make blue light flash rectangular

In the conifer trees that lined the drive.
Day after day he gave his body up
To the unforgiving sun, gunmetal
Cold, and long endured atrophy’s triumph.
So many days he walked stooped to his truck,
Lunchbox in hand, squinting all the way home.

But see him there now, large in his spark-proof
Jacket, long-cuffed gloves, the omnipotent,
Stoic mask, watching through the tinted glass
The firmament, formed as electrons jump
The arc to make steel know his intentions,
With flux smoke rising like greasy incense.

(Field photo above taken in the Quaker District of our small New Hampshire town by my husband.)

Sunday, June 17, 2007

UPDATE: Our son was accepted to the B.F.A. program at the New Hampshire Institute of Art, where he received a four-year scholarship based on the quality of his artwork in his portfolio!

Friday, June 15, 2007


What would these trees say if we were to ask them about global climate change, presidential primaries that last way too long, and sons who graduate high school at the ripe young age of 16?

That’s right: it’s a new chapter. After scoring in the top two percent of current American high school graduates on his GED, we now wait to hear if he will be welcomed as a member of the freshman class at NH Institute of Art this fall.

Meanwhile, my daughter did so well all year long in her advanced math that she doesn’t have to take the final exam. Now that’s sweeeet!

Be well. Be safe. Enjoy nature. And each other.

Cheers,
dana

(Aged Crooked Trees in Henniker photo by me hubby.)

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

FADE OUT!

I did it. Just rewrote my screenplay from scratch. Kept my main characters, but cut all the extraneous stuff.

Have decided to retitle this version, too: NIKI SWEET TALK MOVES.

The new title is derived from the phonetic pronunciation of Nikisuittuq, which means never moves, and also stands for the North Star in Inuktitut. So the new title literally means “[she who] never moves, moves.” It’s meant to be a pun that plays on a couple situations that occur in the tale.

My story still tells of an environmental anthropologist, but instead of studying the effects of global warming on the Inuit of Nunavut, Canada as she did in her graduate intern years, she now works for Erdol, the [fictional] oil company in that region. As a public relations spokesperson, Wyn’s been hired to write about and photograph the very natives that Erdol will likely eradicate with unsafe drilling operations. As Wyn grows wise to the greater picture, she focuses on what she can do: and snaps enough pictures to record evidence for her photo essay that will help compensate the native Inuit for their losses.

Writing--and rewriting--a screenplay from start to finish is a great feeling. Thanks for stopping by and sharing this moment with me.

Cheers,
Dana

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Dog Days of Summer Movie ListOkay, so you know how most teachers and schools assemble a summer reading list. Well, this is that. Except it’s WAY BETTER homework. So what are you waiting for? Get crackin’!

Yeah, so, I kinda just lied cuz one of the BEST movies of the summer so far is actually a script of an older movie I found in my local used bookstore: LIGHT SLEEPER by Paul Schrader. That’s right: the same guy who wrote TAXI DRIVER, which is another brilliant script, by the way.

But LIGHT SLEEPER wasn’t just brilliant, it was BETTER than brilliant. It was the perfect pat of butter that dribbles off your summer corn on the cob.

Too bad he didn’t tap Scorsese to direct, though. But the film fiasco is another story. Read the script if you can get your hands on it. Schrader now makes my favorite screenwriter list: right up there with Frank Darabont and Andrew Niccol.

Last night my kids and I saw DISTURBIA. Yeah, I’m a little disturbed I saw this. But as I teach: you can learn a lot from a BAD movie. Often MORE than you can from a good movie.

It did have one of the best car crash scenes I’ve ever witnessed on screen, though. And contrary to my bubbly neighbor’s perspective: yes, I think he COULD have walked away from that crash. I did once upon a time. It’s the first movie that’s ever taken me so vividly back to my roll over accident that prompted the Statie on the scene to ask a driver who stopped, “have you located the body?”

“I’m the body!” I screamed as I ran right into him.

Anyway, another day. Another dementia.

I highly recommend the SCIENCE OF SLEEP and another with actor Gael Garcia Bernal (who is rapidly becoming one of my all time fave actors—he dissolves into his roles flawlessly)—MOTORCYCLE DIARIES.

So, any of the THREES make a recommended viewing list yet? We’ve attempted to see Spidey Man III three times, without success. First time we had to leave waaayyy to early to pick up kids from a junior high dance so I saw nothing and my son and his girlfriend saw one of the worst movies ever made (title forthcoming when he awakens); second time it was SOLD OUT at the tiny (but very cool) Peterborough theatre; and third time—last night—we just couldn’t get out the door in time to see it. I think the movie goddess is trying to tell me something.

PANS LABYRINTH is on my must see list after being highly recommended by two friends. And I can’t wait to see HOT FUZZ (as I look at the SHAUN OF THE DEAD movie poster hanging in my office) and SUPERBAD, which comes out really disappointingly late in the summer line-up.

I also just bought the SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL collection celebrating 25 years with a bunch of movies and screenplays I already own, like SIDEWAYS—awesome both on the page and on the screen. But I like that it has a few that haven’t made it to my collection yet: like AMERICAN SPLENDOR, THE USUAL SUSPECTS, and SEX, LIES AND VIDEOTAPE.

Okay. So that pretty much does it for my “new” movie summer viewing list. Now I NEED, indeed I BEG your help: what ELSE should I be viewing and/or reading?

Oh, that reminds me. I know this isn’t supposed to be a summer reading list: but I just read Peter Hedges’ awesome novel WHAT’S EATING GILBERT GRAPE, which inspired, yes, his well-adapted flick. The novel is delightful. I had trouble putting it down. One night I even read till midnight. Those who know me and my 9 PM bedtime (so I can rise and write at 4 AM) know what HIGH PRAISE it must be to say a novel was worth staying up till midnight to read. OH: I just realized he wrote the script ABOUT A BOY, too. I’m gonna have to add that to my list of must haves.

Now send me your list. Please. I’m dying here in my own revisionists hell…as I rewrite from scratch (once again) my latest screenplay…that hopefully will lead me to my graduation after only ONE LAST semester to go!

Thanks for stopping by. --Dana

PS This June’s READER’S DIGEST: next to last page, LIFE IN THESE UNITED STATES, read all about lobsters and 15-year-old nightmares while vacationing with family. Yep. That’s right: OUR family. ‘Nough said, huh?

(Photo above of Ellory, our recued Greyhound, taken by me hubby. I think she's saying, "Now what?")

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Art of Rewriting
So here we are, my son and me: I’m rewriting my screenplay; he’s rewriting his life.

What’s already been recorded is unimportant. It’s what we’re working on now that counts. As I strip away my excessive characters and plots, he removes that which in the past has weighed him down.

My son, who just this month turned sixteen, has already learned an invaluable lesson in life: no matter what your age or place, you must forge your own path to survive.

After an unconventional school year of studying at home, working with a private art teacher three times a week, and taking continuing ed courses at the New Hampshire Institute of Art (NHIA), he met Tuesday with the NHIA admissions staff for his portfolio interview. As we left the building, he smiled and commented, “that went well, I think.”

It was an understatement, I believe (and hope), and has served as a great boost to his self-confidence, something he needs as he dives into his GED next week. He handily passed the pre-GED, a short-form exam of the real deal that our state requires of the underage set, so we have high hopes for him. Still, we haven’t let his work schedule slack. Tomorrow he will finish two more GED prep books, bringing his year of home study to a close and filling three shelves with texts from which he has worked, not including the numerous magazine and newspaper articles, and library books and DVDs that he has devoured this past year.

And so the rewriting will continue. As he carves out his next chapter in life, I just might see the way to the new ending in my current version of my screenplay—my creative thesis that I hope to use as my final graduation project. Then I’ll begin penning the next chapter in my own life.

Anyone else rewriting these days? If so, enjoy the journey….

(NOTE: The image above is a tile created by my daughter in art class.)

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Ode to a Cat
Written on the fly/improv-style
By the members of the Advanced Short Scriptwriting/Television Writing Class at the University of New Hampshire-Manchester. Their names held anonymously until they either check in with me or post a comment in response to this silly, silly “poem.”

Ode to a Cat

I like brushing my fat black cat.
Cats have fur and some people
are allergic to them.
My cat likes to drink from the toilet.

My cat has a cyst in her throat
So when she purrs and breathes
All the neighborhood hears is
A high pitched squeal. She likes
To purr, so there’s a lot of squealing.

I once got scratched by a cat and started bleeding.

You were my mom’s cat,
Yet you nipped at my mother’s
Heels when I cried in my crib so that
she’d fetch me and feed me and hold me.
Thank you, Cat.

I’ve never had a cat;
I hear they’re swell.

Pretty little Kitty,
You can play with a ball
Better than the Phillie’s
Third baseman: Mike Schmitty.

You know you like cats
When you’re willing to
Pluck the dingle-berries
From your cat’s long-haired
Bum-bum.

The above served as a silly closing to a rocking performance of Omnium Gatherum, in which each student had five minutes to present and/or perform to the greater university and Manchester community during our final class of the semester. Bravo, class. It’s been a an honor and a privilege to have worked with each of you once again….

Cheers,
Dana

Friday, May 04, 2007

Workshop Intensive: Crafting the Short Script
Dana Biscotti Myskowski

Create your own mini-masterpiece. From proper formatting to screenplay terminology, this workshop will introduce participants to the art of crafting a short script, which is a good first step to writing that perfect feature project. Discover what fuels a story and how to create compelling characters. Draw on your hidden talents to sketch your ideas in storyboard fashion. Learn why all the work is in the outlining process. Listen to your inner protagonist, antagonist, and supporting cast as your script comes to life in a reading with workshop participants.

Award-winning screenwriter Dana Biscotti Myskowski has written a short film, an artist’s video, a planetarium-show script, corporate videos, children’s plays, and short and feature-length spec scripts. She has written for such publications as The SNReview, The Pitkin Review, and Hollywood Scriptwriter. She teaches workshops at colleges, conferences, businesses, and film festivals. She is currently studying in the low-residency MFA at Goddard College, where she is working on her latest screenplay.

Sponsored by: NH Writers' Project
Date and Time: Saturday, June 16, 2007, 9:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.
Location: Southern New Hampshire University, Manchester, NH
Cost: $125 NHWP members; $140 nonmembers
Class limit: 15
Register/More info: Writers' Project Workshops
Recommended level: Beginning to Intermediate

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Gather One, Gather All for Omnium Gatherum:
An Anything Goes Presentation by Students of the Advanced Short Scriptwriting Course at UNH Manchester
(Copy from a Press Release that is near and dear to my heart. Please read on and you'll see why....)Manchester, NH: What do gimp, zombies, lost souls, bald cats, and Shogun warriors have in common? They are all part of several possible new TV shows developed and written by students of the Advanced Short Scriptwriting course at UNH Manchester.

Students will present examples from their work during “Omnium-Gatherum,” part of the University’s Brown Bag Lecture Series, on Wednesday, May 9, Noon to 1:00, in the third-floor auditorium of the main campus building at 400 Commercial Street.

Some will read scenes from their pilot scripts while others may write new scenes developed expressly for the lunchtime forum. One student plans to discuss the traditional four-act structure inherent in hour-long television dramas, while another will attempt to pen an all new and original “Ode to a Cat” monologue. Still another student hopes to conduct a comedy improv sketch that may even involve willing audience members.

The Advanced Short Scriptwriting course offered by the Communications Arts Department takes students beyond the festival-style short scripts written in the introductory class and introduces them to the world of sit coms and hour-long shows. Early in the semester students evaluate and analyze scripts from existing and classic television series as they develop and pitch their own projects to the class. Later they read aloud and critique each others’ scripts, utilizing the notes from their classmates and professor in the revision process.

The course is taught by Adjunct Professor Dana Biscotti Myskowski, an award-winning screenwriter with a Professional Certificate in Screenwriting from UCLA who is currently enrolled at Goddard College where she is one semester shy of completing her MFA in creative writing, focusing on screenwriting and playwrighting. In a spirit of “we’re all learning together,” Dana will read an excerpt from her own creative thesis script during the hour-long presentation, thus adding Inuit and hit men to the already quirky program.

UNH Manchester, the university’s urban campus, brings undergraduate and graduate programs to people who live and work in New Hampshire. Please visit us on the web at www.unhm.unh.edu.

Please consider yourselves all cordially invited to attend. It's a bring your own lunch, or you may purchase something to eat from the first floor lobby cafe.

Cheers,
Dana

Saturday, April 07, 2007


Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow....

Tired of snow, tired of reminding teens to put away their bikes...until the snow covers [most] of the evidence.

That's a lot of snow for April. Pretty, but still...too much for April.

Did I mention how beautiful it was, though? Happy Spring....

Cheers!
Pictures of our yard taken by me...my first time using my husband's "new" digital SLR camera that he bought more than a year ago.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Here it is, the link to my latest published work--and my first ever published and printed short screenplay. I think it's kinda cool to see it in print.

While working with the editors, trying to retain at least some of the proper screenplay formatting, I was reminded how precious few opportunities there are for us screenwriters to get our work published, never mind produced! Oy. I'm gonna have to do something about that. (Watch for news on that project later this year.)

Okay, okay, I hear you...less adieu, more link:

PLAYING HOUSE in the Pitkin Review

Friday, March 30, 2007

If you feed a teen a meal...

She or he's going to want another.

We open our door every Thursday night to any teens who want to eat dinner with us at 6:30 p.m. Last night's crew broke all previous records as nineteen bumped and squished around the table.

The early arrivals sat and, surprisingly, popped on the animated movie "Land Before Time II." After dinner half the group watched the third installment and called or assigned characters for each of the viewers, while the other half skateboarded in our driveway, spilling onto our normally quiet and peaceful green. Eventually the entire group ended up outside skateboarding and wrestling...and generally being a bit too rowdy, or so I'm afraid (did I mention we live on a normally peaceful green?), so I broke up the crowd a half hour earlier than normal and drove half of them home while the others drove themselves and their friends home.

"Thursday Nights" or "Lulu's Soup Kitchen," so called after my son's nickname, began small when on the last day of school in June of 2006 we ended up with about sixteen teens at our house. They were visiting since my kids and I were headed to California the next day to see my family for a few weeks. I had to run out for milk and returned with enough hamburgers, hotdogs, buns, chips, strawberries, and popsicles to feed the crew. By fall the dinner nights became routine.

This thing I do--cooking dinner for so many--is not as generous as it sounds. There's an ulterior motive involved: I want to get to know my teens' friends. So perhaps it's more a bribe that I throw food out on the table every week. Or perhaps, like calling my dog back inside from the yard with the promise of a treat, it's because I don't want to lose any of them--not my own kids, not their friends.

Teens have it hard these days. Much more difficult navigating the bumps and bruises of those awkward years than I ever experienced. There's more available to them in the negative category: seems like anyone's willing to sell them cigarettes or at least there are plenty of 18-year-olds who will buy for them, and the drugs that run through our sleepy college town have been a huge wake up call for me.

Add to that the antagonism from some town officials toward the teens, and most adults here would admit they would never go back. Sure the town provides a teen center that is open to the high schoolers three whole hours a week; well, most weeks. So what are they supposed to do the other 165 hours? Let's see, sleep accounts for about 60 of those hours, give or take. School accounts for what? About 35 or so hours. A couple of them have part time jobs. I've heard a few of them mention homework once or twice. And then there's the skate park.

Let's talk about the skate park. Here's what our town did: they built a skate park, or, as I understand it, actually a senior at the high school built the park as his senior project, some years before we arrived in town (we've been here half a dozen years now). For some unearthly reason, officials thought the skate park should be located behind the elementary school playground. High schoolers smoking and swearing and listening to their music full blast right behind the elementary playground. It doesn't take a genius to see the problems inherent in that mixture.

And there were problems. So the town snuck in one school day late last fall, demolished the park without one word of warning to the skaters who had brought down some of their own equipment (my son lost a homemade box and rail that cost well over a thousand dollars and a weekend of work to build). The skaters were angry. Understandably so. I was even angry, though I was happy to see that someone finally realized how ridiculous it was to have a skate park on elementary grounds (unless you have two parks: one for the younger set and one for the older teens).

So, after complaining to the town police and learning that they had nothing to do with it, rather, it was a selectmen's meeting that resulted in the decision, my son called and scheduled a meeting with the town manager. This is good, right? My teen age son taking responsibility? Getting involved in local politics for a cause he believes in? He wanted to inquire how he and a group of friends, including town businessmen and parents who had volunteered to help, could relocate the park and rebuild it.

Rather than being met with cooperation of any kind, he was met with hostility. After all, here's this teenage skate punk, right? He doesn't do anything but swear and sleep and jump around on that stupid piece of pine with wheels. Never mind that it was at the town skate park where he was first spotted by a skate team manager and signed by his sponsor. Nor that the local sports webzine sent a photographer down to the local park to grab him in action and write an article on the company that sponsored him.

Meanwhile, my son has had a couple of great meetings with selectmen in the next town over who, when it came time to demolish the local skate park so that the new junior high could be built, were actually looking for teen skaters to talk with as they redesigned the new park. It has yet to open, but at least my son had a good political experience, even if he had to leave home to find it.

Now it's spring and the kids have nowhere to skate, and the business owners and college are already tired of chasing them away. The police, too, are frustrated. We've had chats with them about the need for a skate park, but my son's initial meeting with the town manager was so bad that it left a horrible taste in all our mouths. And he was not alone. Unbeknownst to him, another skateboarder met with the manager and discovered the same hostility.

What teens? Maybe if we ignore them, they'll go away. I don't think so, though. Conventional wisdom says that if we take away a teen's skate park, she or he's going to want another.

Guess it’s time for round two. And for me to get involved. Maybe if I invite the town manager and the selectmen to Thursday night dinner they could get to know some of the town’s teens--the generally rowdy, often dismissed, skater crowd--as well as I do. Maybe then a spirit of cooperation will begin. And our teens will have one thing more to list in their positive column.

Photo above of a door from an interesting old shed in town taken by my hubby on one of our winter walks.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Three wise Ninjas...

Sometimes you have to wonder: "What would Ninja have brought the baby?"

Or not.

So I'm back in the world of the daily grind after being away at "Writer's Camp" as I have come to regard Goddard College's on campus residency program. There the routine is anything but ordinary. The people are rich, engaging, and--for the most part--very much like me. It's an invigorating time on campus that helps spark our creative energies and which leaves us sleep deprived, but ready to write (though the nonsense of this blog post may prove otherwise...).

I have decided to take a path less worn as I toss out the ninth draft of my creative thesis and start with an entirely new story. While it is customary to continue working on your thesis project during the G-3 semester since a well-hewn rough draft is due the first packet of the G-4 semester, I decided I just can't proceed any longer with Monica and her journey to find herself and her son.

So I'm working with an all new protagonist, an environmental anthropologist who is concerned about the negative effects of Global Warming on the Inuit people. When she inadvertently stumbles upon a conspiracy that wipes out an entire fishing village and threatens to do the same to people along the East Coast of Canada and of the United States, she must find a way to stop the destruction...or die trying.

Ironically, though it is an all new story I'm penning, I feel much better this time out for having studied and worked with my previous advisor. While I stumbled around in the dark looking for my first story, this time his sage advice has helped me focus so that my outline should be a thousand times better than my latest draft of the previous work. I also have the help of a few good Goddardites and will soon have the assistance of my new faculty advisor when I turn in Packet One, which is due February 12th.

Back to work for me. I'm feeling like I have at least two semesters of work to complete in one. I want to graduate on time. Or at least die trying.

Question of the month: Do you believe in Global Warming? If so, what evidence have you personally experienced to back it up?